As the man who steered Germany through the most tumultuous years of the Cold War and the uplifting triumph of democracy over dictatorship, the massive politician left his mark on Europe over the past few decades, which saw some of the continent’s greatest achievements.
Helmut Kohl, the long-serving former chancellor whose life in the political limelight spanned the joyous zenith of German reunification and the shattering nadir of a corruption scandal, died Friday at his home in Ludwigshafen, Germany. He was 87.
Kohl’s Christian Democratic Union Party posted on Twitter: “We are in sorrow. #RIP #HelmutKohl.” The German newspaper Bild reported his death.
The “chancellor of unity” and the driving force behind European integration, Kohl suffered a fall from grace with his failed bid for a fifth term in 1998 and later allegations of criminal malfeasance that rendered him, in his own words, “a kind of unperson.”
But as the man who steered Germany through the most tumultuous years of the Cold War and the uplifting triumph of democracy over dictatorship, the massive politician left his mark on Europe over the past few decades, which saw some of the continent’s greatest achievements.
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The last German chancellor whose outlook was shaped by personal experience of the Nazi era, Kohl also lived through the pain and sorrow of all 45 years of his nation’s division. But keen-eyed and famously stubborn, Kohl saw the chance to reunite his countrymen in East and West Germany when a reformer named Mikhail S. Gorbachev came to power in 1985 in the Soviet Union.
Few then dared to dream of a Germany free of the ideological and physical divides imposed by the Berlin Wall and the barbed wire, booby-traps and shoot-to-kill orders guiding the Communist world’s sentries.
But as the wily Kohl watched events unfold in the late 1980s in Moscow and Eastern Europe, where the…